With over 6,000 Instagram followers amassed over the span of a few months, @uoftears__ (or “U of Tears,” not “U of T Ears” as the admin has requested I distinguish) is the new confession account that has trickled into conversations across the student body.

As of February, there are well over 4,000 confessions ranging from describing firsts — first kiss, first time having sex, first fail in a course — to slapstick posts about the various bowel movements of students, whether they be confined to a bathroom or not. There are even more controversial confessions, like Confession #216, which reported that the student allegedly “like[s] pineapple on pizza.”

There are other secrets on this platform too, of the genre rarely shared without the blanket of anonymity. People write about their worst depressive episodes, their suicidal tendencies, and their family troubles — some posts are penned with an overwhelming sense of loneliness.

The admin of @uoftears__ manages and disseminates a wide variety of voices and stories, all from one account. I wanted to know why she does what she does — why she created this platform, how she is impacted by all of the confessions she receives, and what her perspective is after the success of her account.

I sat down on the phone with her and she told me, on the condition of anonymity, about the story behind all the stories.

TV: Are you the only person with access to this account?

uoftears__: Yeah, it’s only me.

TV: So when you graduate, what plans do you have for the account?

uoftears__: I’ve been thinking a lot about it. I don’t think I’m going to continue writing it, but I will definitely look for someone to run the page because I do want the account to continue.

TV: Does anybody know who you are? Like your close friends?

uoftears__: The only people who know who I am are my roommate and two friends from high school. But no one really knows who I am.

TV: So why did you start this account?

uoftears__: I think there were a lot of reasons I started this account. If you look at other accounts that do similar stuff with mine, it’s not really a platform to share personal things, but I wanted to make mine a platform for people to be able to share how they’re feeling anonymously. And I’m trying to just make people more aware to start people talking about the issues that we’re having at our campus.

TV: Would that be the purpose of your account, this sense of community that you’re creating?

uoftears__: I guess, yeah, I wanted a sense of community. I wanted people to know that they aren’t alone. I know sometimes it’s a huge campus, it’s easy for you to feel like you don’t have anyone. But I wanted people to have a place where they can share how they feel, what’s happening in their lives, and know that they’re not going to be judged. Or they can at least get a positive response from other people. That’s really why I wanted to do it.

TV: So how do you choose whether or not to post a confession? I’m just curious about clarifying the process.

uoftears__: When I look at the Google Form, it tells me I have “x” number of confessions. Normally, it’s like 100 or something. For me, a confession is where someone is admitting to something that they’ve done or something that they feel. So for example, if they’re talking about a crush, there’s no actions taking place, so I don’t post those. I look for ones that are repetitive. I read all of the confessions, delete the ones that don’t meet the criteria, and then I read them again and I keep skimming them down until there’s 20 left and then I post those.

TV: Beyond just the darker confessions that you get, because there are a significant amount on there, I’ve got to say there’s some pretty weird confessions. Like Confession #3751 involved somebody taking a dump in a urinal, for example. What’s your reaction to confessions like these?

uoftears__: I get really weird ones. Today, I got one about someone that stalks people in bathroom stalls — they just stay there, and then they jerk off to people peeing. I like getting the weird ones because it’s a good buffer in between some of the harder ones to read. Even though I know some of them are fake, it’s a good laugh for people, so I post some. Because at the end of the day, it’s an Instagram account. It’s a place to read funny and stupid things too.

The first post made by @uoftears__ was actually on September 22, 2018, and it consisted of a picture that read “u of t confessions” with a caption telling people to submit confessions and tag friends. The only comment on it read: “Stop is this high school over again,” which, admittedly, is a valid point.

Though there are plenty of other university-based anonymous sharing accounts, there is something reminiscent of high school about a confession account. Maybe it’s because it takes on the mantle of the grapevine gossip transmission, or maybe it’s because you get the same outlandish confessions of unlikely sexual situations and bodily functions that echo certain stereotypical high school guys.

You have the commenters who have become staples of the page, like @whatjoelthinks, and you have the fairly active engagement of people who know a bit too much about other people’s lives — without really knowing them at all.

This is like high school, but that sense of community is also changed. Due to the extremely high number of submissions, the admin has had to pare down the voices to 20 per day. Even though her process of evaluating confessions is straightforward and she prides herself on maintaining an eclectic mix of posts, readers can still glean fragments of her personal beliefs and priorities from what she picks.

During our conversation, she mentions the posts about sexual assault that she receives. She explained how it’s become important to her for to show students to know that there are survivors on campus that still haven’t received the treatment or investigations that she believes they deserve. She mentions that she feels like the school has failed some students, whether in terms of mental health or adequate support overall.

In cases like these, a confession takes on a whole new shape. It is a vehemently personal statement to make, and it also coalesces with certain topics that the admin advocates for. That’s not to say that @uoftears__ is one massive social justice crusade, but rather that with a page like this, the person behind the virtual account will still bleed through.

TV: You emphasize this anonymity a lot for your account. All names, if they’re included, will be taken off the confessions, and all the confessions are completely anonymous. So what do you think is the power and significance of being anonymous for confession accounts like yours?

uoftears__: I really wanted it to be a place that anyone felt safe sharing stuff with, regardless of what it was, because some of the stuff is really dark and it’s really sad, but I think it’s about just giving them the voice to say what they need to say and knowing that they can be 100 per cent anonymous.

TV: How has your U of T experience changed after creating this account?

uoftears__: To be honest, it hasn’t changed too much. I think the funniest thing is when I’m at parties or when I’m out with a big group of friends, sometimes they’ll start talking about the account and I pretend like I don’t know it at all. People will say, “Oh yeah, I send in confessions all the time!” And I’m like, “Yup, I’ve read every single one of them.”

TV: That must be a very unique position you’re in.

uoftears__: It is.

TV: To be able to know so many personal things about people.

uoftears__: Yeah, it really is. Most of the time I have no clue who is sending it in because of the way that I set up the Google Form. But sometimes, they’ll include names, so that’s when I actually do get to know things about people, but I never share any of it. Literally, never.

TV: How has receiving these confessions changed the way you see students on campus?

uoftears__: I think having this confession page just validates what my thoughts were already.

TV: What were your thoughts?

uoftears__: U of T is notorious for being a cutthroat school, I guess. Which is not always the case depending on your program and depending on the people you surround yourself with. But I think it does take an emotional toll on a lot of people, and I had a feeling that this was the case, but seeing all of these posts… And these are just the people who are sending them. I’m sure there’s hundreds more. For every one person who sends it, there could be 10 other people feeling the exact same way, but just haven’t confessed it.

This is an odd paradox in which anonymity becomes intimacy. Of course, you’ve got the funnier confessions, some of which supposedly from Rotman students, that leave you a little concerned for the wellbeing of some people in that faculty. Then you’ve got people who confessed to taking dumps in urinals or being high in every lecture. It’s a diverse set of voices, and it’s supposed to be, as the account is meant to be representative of an entire university.

But in other confessions, with topics ranging from heartbreak to devastation to complete emotional turmoil, you read secrets from people that you never would have heard from otherwise. There are no faces to the words, which fosters an unique sense of intimacy. At our core, the account suggests, we’re all driven by and impacted by similar forces.

Who writes the confessions? Anybody and practically everybody, if you really think about it. If you read a particular confession about loneliness or insecurity that you really relate to, it could’ve been written by any of the hundreds of faces that jostle past you on King’s College Circle. It could’ve been from the girl who sits next to you in MAT137, the boy who lives a couple doors down from you in Lower Burwash, a person you’ve seen again and again in the dining hall. Any face, any time, anywhere.

Who’s to say it couldn’t be your very best friend?

TV: What types of confessions do you usually get the most of, do you think?

uoftears__: I get a lot of confessions about wanting help on courses. I also get a lot of people talking about crushes like, “Oh my God, the girl I saw today in the blue shirt and brown shoes, I thought you were so cute!” I also — it’s actually really hard, but I get a lot of people saying that they’re depressed, and they want to die. I get a lot of suicidal confessions. Those are the hardest ones because sometimes I can’t post all of them and I want to. I don’t want to silence people, but some days, I’ll go days without getting any, and then some days, I’ll just get a bunch, and then it’s overwhelming.

TV: On that whole topic of getting overwhelmed by it, from the sheer number of depression or dark confessions you get, is it kind of numbing to a certain point after you’ve seen so many?

uoftears__: No, it’s really, really… At the beginning when I started the account and I first started getting suicidal confessions, I was debating if I even wanted to post them. But then I was like, “No, the reason I started this account is so people can share how they’re feeling, so I’m going to be posting them.” Which is one of the major differences between my account and any other university account. At first, it was really hard for me. In the caption, I didn’t know what to caption it. At the very beginning, I comment more as a friend and I wanted to be supportive, but people were saying, “Stop pretending to be people’s friend.” You can see now I always post a couple links — a set amount of links — with the suicidal ones. And the only reason I changed the way I approach things is that I wanted to stay a neutral platform and I wanted to give people resources that could actually help them. It looks like I probably became more of a bitch, but it’s not like that. It’s so hard… Every single confession that I get about depression, mental health, suicide, anything — it never gets numb. I’ll always feel something for that person, and I always feel like I want to do anything I can for this person.

TV: This question is a little more personal, but when you see these posts about mental health, do you ever relate to any of them? Do they ever trigger you sometimes or negatively impact your own sense of mental health?

uoftears__: I do have mental health problems, and I do see a therapist. When people say, “Oh, you don’t relate to us, you don’t know I’m going through,” — I do know what you’re going through. I’ve been there, I’ve had really tough days, really tough weeks, really tough months. Sometimes people notice that I’ll go inactive for a couple of days, and the number one reason I do that is because if I get a day where I get a lot of suicide confessions, it’s just really hard. Sometimes it does trigger stuff. It’s what motivates me, in a way, because I empathize with them. It motivates me to keep sharing their stories.

The first published confession that explicitly mentioned suicide was Confession #667. Before then, there were some about depression and suicidal tendencies, but #667 was the first to flat out declare suicidal intentions. Since then, more and more students have confessed their mental health issues to the point where suicidal confessions are nearly commonplace on the feed.

The choice to post these confessions potentially puts both the administrator and her readers at risk — there’s a fine line between sharing and encouraging, even if only accidentally. Suicide or mental health problems can be idealized or romanticized if they aren’t dealt with properly.

If the admin had decided against posting confessions about mental health and suicide, she wouldn’t have opened the floodgates to more people confessing those secrets. She wouldn’t have to read about people’s worst moments every day.

She faces these concerns every time she reads a confession about mental health, and she deals with the fallout in her own mental state. She tries to balance a neutral, non-judgmental platform with offering support to suffering students. For example, she posts links to give her followers more resources. These links are a start, as they show the confessor, and people who identify with them, that these mental health issues require attention and treatment.

uoftears__: I remember this one person, and they were like, “Maybe not everyone clicks the link, but I clicked it, and it saved me.” So that’s why I keep posting those.

TV: Yeah, it’s the small victories.

uoftears__: I just want to help people. And I’m not a professional. I don’t know what I’m doing. But I’m just trying to do it the best way I know how.